Blue in the Face, a Story of Risk, Rhyme, and Rebellion by Gerry Swallow ($19.99, Raincoast Books, Bloomsbury Children’s Book) is the story of Elspeth Pule, who can only be described as a spoiled brat. After holding her breath so long – in a temper tantrum over her parents refusal to buy her a pet alpaca – she passes out and wakes up in a magical kingdom inhabited by nursery rhyme characters she only thought she knew.

Humpty Dumpty is a spy, while Bo-Peep didn’t lose her sheep, but rather they were eaten by Old King Cole, who is really Old King Krool. Krool has banished all the nursery rhyme characters to live in the forest in poverty and oppression.

Long Live the Queen
Long Live the Queen

Long Live the Queen ($22.99, Raincoast Books) is the follow-up book.

I interviewed Swallow for Book Time last month. You can read the Q&A here.

Elspeth, at first, was a truly awful child, created by well-meaning parents who failed miserably. My mouth literally dropped open at some of the things she did and said. Thankfully, it isn’t long into the book before she enters this other world.

There are some laugh-out-loud parts in both Blue in the Face and Long Live the Queen. I particularly liked the “true” nursery rhymes that ended each chapter as well as the jokes with the nursery rhyme in mind (the cheese stood alone).

I did wonder, however, if the intended audience, middle school kids, would get the jokes or even know the nursery rhymes well enough to understand why the story was funny.

I read all the nursery rhymes to my son, but we moved on to other books as he got older. I don’t know if he knows even the more common nursery rhymes off by heart like people of my generation do. (There are a number of nursery rhymes that I didn’t know.) I feel like I would have to read the original nursery rhymes as their characters came up in Blue in the Face so my son would get the jokes.

I didn’t finish either book. I got half way through both before losing interest. I would be interested to know what middle school-aged children think of these books.

Have your children read the books? Did they like them?

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